The students are in grades 7–12 and will make their campus visit May 3.
“This is an awesome opportunity to expand the Auburn family and show these kids what it’s like to be an Auburn student,” said SGA President Owen Parrish. “Lets give them a snapshot of what it’s like to enjoy Auburn and really go out of our way to be closer to the Auburn family and reach out and show them what it’s all about.”
The group is being led by William Bowman, CEO of Visually Impaired People.
“Once a year, (Bowman) takes a field trip somewhere,” said John Sasser, president of War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen. “Last year he went to the University of Alabama and was not happy with the way he was treated there, so that’s why he called us.”
VIP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing low-vision educational programs, support and mentoring to the blind and visually impaired of Selma and throughout Dallas County, according to their website.
The group will begin the day with a talk from former football coach Pat Dye at the athletic complex. They will then tour most of the athletic facilities and go to the Auburn Arena for the pep rally.
Though the tour will be planned, the pep rally will be a complete surprise to the group.
“Basically we are trying to provide what a lot of organizations that work with special needs children and adults are providing and trying to provide equal opportunities,” said Lauren Swindle, president of Best Buddies at Auburn. “They have been traveling around Alabama and this is one of their stops.”
According to its website, Best Buddies’ mission is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
They are completely funded by fundraising and Swindle said the group continues to grow every year.
The pep rally will involve multiple athletes, cheerleaders, members of SGA, the War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen, Aubie and as many students as possible.
“We feel like this is a need that Auburn can handle and we’re going to do the best we can to make these kids feel right at home,” Sasser said. “I think (Bowman’s) goal is to bring the kids here and make them feel equal like the college students. I think it’s pretty unique. It should probably happen more often.”
Students interested in attending should be at the arena by 11 a.m., and the pep rally will begin at 11:30 a.m.
After visiting the arena for the rally, the group will have lunch at the Student Center with members of Best Buddies. They will then take a bus tour around campus and end at the bookstore with various gifts to take home.
“It’s a time to enjoy the Auburn spirit with each other and with those kids before we leave for the summer,” Parrish said.